Nick walked to the office with a spring in his step on this, the tenth, day. He didn't have the feeling that he had arrived at the end of the lessons, more that he was embarking on something new. He also realized that you don't become a fully-fledged marketing man in a couple of weeks, but that he had been on a fantastic journey in Gus's company. He felt that he had a good grasp of the overall picture, the connections and what was what, of how to think and plan, not just in terms of marketing but also in other aspects of life.
He had put the Party Marketing Model up on his bedroom wall at home and when he looked at the various steps everything seemed so obvious. As obvious as the final day being about the Moment of Truth. This would be the day of reckoning, the moment when we find out if we have planned, applied ourselves sufficiently and made the right decisions, the moment when we find out if our work has been good enough for the final result to provide a financial dividend and other rewards.
He plodded up the hill to Gus's advertising agency, which Nick was now nonchalantly calling simply the agency. It felt cool and big-time. His philosophizing during the walk was suddenly interrupted.
“Good afternoon, Nick. I see that you have left your trainers at home. And where's the jacket?” Nick looked up from the pavement to see Christine.
“Here!” He raised an arm to reveal a dark green bag with the Valentino logo. “Tell me, what's going on? What are we going to do?”
“Ask Gus. Personally I've been given a couple of hours off to do some shopping. I need something new to wear this evening,” she said giggling and disappeared down the street.
The lift had never ascended as quickly as it did today. The door to the agency was locked, so he rang the bell. Gus opened up:
“Hi and sorry! I locked the door before your arrival so that there would be a symbolic opening into the land of success, the Moment of Truth.”
“Metaphoring again,” said Nick with a smile, realizing that he had coined a new verb. Gus put the palm of his right hand on Nick's back and literally shoved him into his room where coffee, fruit, Danish pastries and coca cola were laid out in honor of the occasion.
“Nick, Nick, Nick! We have now arrived at the final point in my model.”
“I know, I know, I'm with it,” said Nick calmly.
“Brilliant,” said Gus. “So, we have arrived at the Moment of Truth, the point when we find out if our efforts are going to succeed or fail, when we see the results of our work. When the guests left your party they were supposed to say: ‘What a nice party, hope I'm invited again!’ Is that what they said, Nick?”
“Everyone, I repeat everyone, was completely satisfied. ‘The best party I've been to’ was just one of the comments as they were clutching their poster and going home. And the boss's delight about all the expectations that were surpassed.”
“Yes, I know that all of your efforts and resolute work had a real impact. But back to the world of business. All companies are constantly encountering their Moment of Truth every time a customer engages with them. Meeting the sales personnel, phoning the switchboard, when the customer uses the product. The Moment of Truth is also the day of reckoning! Success is usually measured in terms of money, but whatever your view of success, it is ALWAYS based on how good the groundwork is. That's the naked truth.”
“You've probably got a good example in store, haven't you, Gus?” said Nick and Gus couldn't mistake the sarcasm.
“Here's one from the world of sport. When a completely unknown hundred-meter runner wins the Olympic gold everyone says that he became a star overnight. But nobody becomes a star overnight, even if that's what they say in the evening paper or on TV. As someone said: ‘Becoming a star overnight takes many years!’ There is always single-minded planning, training and work behind a gold medal. It's about sweat and tears. Nothing is free in that sense. No preparatory work, no reward! But now I want to sum up before we move on.”
“Let's do that, then,” said Gus smiling and steadying himself.
“We've been through the business idea and the objective of the company, our target groups and their needs, the competitors’ working practices and pricing, our own range of products or services, where and how we are going to meet our customers, our organization and leadership, finances, how we are going to communicate and bring in our customers.”
He displayed the model for the last time.
“There's a lot you have to get right,” said Nick impressed.
“And that has to be followed-up. How do you know whether you've succeeded?”
“I suppose you have to check the sales figures,” said Nick a bit vaguely.
“Yes, among other things. The most common target is just as you say, Nick, the sales results. But even breaking the sales record doesn't automatically mean you are successful in money terms. What does that mean?”
“The costs have to harmonize with the revenues or the sales,” said Nick sagely.
“Quite. If your costs are too high in relation to the sales revenues there is no profit left over. And then there's nothing for the bad times. Nothing for developing the company or paying dividends to the shareholders. An empty shoe box. So the costs are therefore an important aspect to follow up, day by day, week by week, month, quarter, mid-year and year. Keeping expenditure in check is everything. Are there any more ways of measuring success?” said Gus urgently.
“I don't know,” said Nick quickly.
Once again Gus provided an illustration on the flip-chart.
“Setting various targets and monitoring how they are reached gives an indication of whether success has been achieved. It might be in money or whether you have improved your image as unique and serious, taken market share from your competitors or gained more satisfied customers and employees. It's not always about pounds, shillings and pence. I'm sure you remember what you said when Sara and you were talking about profit in the short or long term.”
“Oh yes, right. Think of all the positive reactions we received at the party. We were almost heroes among all the guests. And the party is going to produce profit in the long term, not just financially, but also profit in the sense that your boss has gained a more closely united and effective team.”
“Yes, I came to think about participation spontaneously,” said Gus. “You mustn't forget to convey your business idea and objectives to the staff. Tell them how you plan to get there, how everyone has to do their bit to achieve the targets that have been set and not least keep them informed of how things are progressing. Otherwise the staff won't know if they're doing a good job or not.”
“Participation and motivation,” said Nick, with the sense that now he was starting to talk like Gus, in formulas, like a mantra.
“Yes, but as you work towards success it is also important to constantly question what you're doing. Can we do things in a better way? Is the business idea working, or does it have to be revised? Are we better than our competitors, or can we develop unique new ways of satisfying our customers’ needs? In brief, constantly check off the model.”
“We are now talking about a company as a unit with people in different roles. Every employee should sometimes think about whether there are things to improve and develop. It makes the job both more enjoyable and more meaningful. Imagine if everyone was to improve by 1 percent. That's a lot of percent.”
“But when Jamie Oliver was on TV trying to change school food you could see that a lot of people were afraid of changes,” said Nick.
“That's true in terms of rapid changes. People want to feel secure, and fast changes often entail moving into uncharted territory. And that's scary,” said Gus. “People often say ‘That's not possible. We've always done it this way,’ or ‘We've never done it like that'. Objections that I am sure you recognize, don't you?”
“If there are rapid changes, surely there are also slow changes?” Now Nick was really interested.
“Yes, slow changes pass us by almost unnoticed. Suddenly we're standing there wondering what happened. We don't see the changes until we look in the rear-view mirror. After all, the world's not the same place it was fifty years ago. When television arrived in the 1950s it took many years before everyone was able to watch TV on Saturday evenings on the country's one TV channel. In just ten years people's recreational habits had changed. You could see your idols on TV. Before TV you had to go to dance halls that barely exist today. Instead we have thousands of TV channels that we can bring into our own living room or bedroom. Isn't that weird Nick? And even this has changed radically.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean the way we watch TV. Previously the family gathered in the sitting room to watch TV. Today each member of the family is in their own room watching their favorite program on a flat screen TV or computer. Change is the name of the game. You can meet your idols at gigantic concerts and among the vast content of the internet.”
“Dad and I were talking about this the other evening. For me, TVs, computers and mobile phones are absolutely natural. After all, I was brought up with them and don't know anything else. I download music to my computer and mobile phone in a couple of seconds. When he was young Dad used to have to go into town to buy Beatles records, and that was if he could afford it. He also told me about what a massive change it was when computers arrived. The changeover was too much for everyone at his company. People couldn't cope with the change from paper and pens to computers. He said that that was basically the reason that his previous business went bust.”
“But good things usually arise out of change,” said Gus. “From chaos to order, is the usual refrain.”
“Yes even I, glorying in my youth, will have to adapt to innovations, development and changes in the future.”
“All we know for sure is that nothing will stay as it is. Yesterday is the past. Tomorrow is the future. All you can do is enjoy the present. And by the way, talking of the past – have you considered the fact that yesterday's gadgets become antiques that can actually be converted into a business idea in the future?”
Gus poured a cup of coffee from the thermos and grabbed a pastry.
“Now we're going to talk about brands.”
“Brand, a label on the product you mean?” Nick asked, even though he knew what it was, or he thought he did.
“Take the thermos in front of you. Today we simply say thermos and everyone knows what we're talking about. But it hasn't always been like that. In the beginning it was a container with twin walls that had the capacity to stay hot or cold, and that was mainly used in physics laboratories. Then some bright spark realized there was money to be made from the invention. And naturally it had to be called something other than a Dewar vessel. It became Thermos. Today it's not an individual brand, but rather a generic name for the product segment of thermoses”.
“In other words, a brand is a product name; the business name is a trademark. Sometimes it's one and the same, like NIKE. ‘Your name is who you are’ a musician friend said to me, and that's precisely what it's about. When your dad says ‘Gus’ you see a picture of me in front of you.” Gus laughed, “For better or for worse, I suppose. You have a relationship to me, whether you want to or not. It's just the same with business names and brands. We have a relationship to them. You remember when we were talking about BMW and Skoda. They conjure up entirely different pictures, or images, for each of us. A brand can be perceived as something positive, negative or indifferent. Just as we perceive the people around us. Developing a brand is like building up a long friendship.”
Then he wrote on the flip-chart:
McDonald's. Coca Cola
“Two of the world's most well-known and powerful brands. They have put vast sums into establishing the feeling in us consumers that it is absolutely right to buy and enjoy their products. Almost everyone in the world has become their friends. But small companies in local markets also do the same thing. Developing a positive feeling in the customers so that they would rather buy their services and products. Again and again. And just like McDonald's and Coca Cola it is also important that the small company is as clever as its world-leading colleagues. It's important to be consistent in everything it does. As a famous advertising man said: ‘Being consistent and powerful is always profitable!’ As long as you've comprehensively learnt the lesson of being consistent and sending out the same signals to the customers wherever they encounter the company, then you have started to build your brand. And I do mean comprehensively. From visiting cards and notepaper, signs and shop-windows, clothes and cars, treatment of employees and customers, advertisements, TV advertising and websites – to success! You have met and treated the customers properly. You have satisfied their needs and above all surpassed their expectations. And all I'm going to say is, look at McDonald's, then you'll understand how to take care of the most important thing you have. Your brand! You hear a lot of talk about a strong or a weak image. And after all, image also means picture. And a picture consists of lots of pixels that together form a whole – the picture. And if a few pixels are out of place then the picture becomes entirely different from the one you want to show the world.”
“I get it. I get it.”
Nick thought that now Gus was going a bit far, but he stayed with it and said, “One morning one of the country's most popular TV chefs said how important it was to produce a successful overall dish. Like a delicious hotpot. All the ingredients in the pot must be planned and prepared in detail for it to taste really good, be of the highest quality and enjoyed by the guests. If any of the ingredients are missing or if any of the raw materials are poor quality, then the end result will be inferior. And then I will have lost my position as a successful chef in no time, he said. Have I understood? Garbage in – garbage out, as we used to say. It's the same thing, isn't it?”
And Gus said, “You're a clever boy who has also strengthened the ‘Nick’ brand in the last few weeks. There are more people at work who have a more positive attitude to the Nick brand after the party, compared with the situation before it. You have better relationships now than previously, and thus you could also say that your brand has been reinforced. But not just at work but also with me and everyone else here at the agency. Good eh?”
“Yes, really.” Nick was gazing dreamily out through the window but quickly turned his head to look at Gus and said, “Are we finished now?” Nick was feeling a bit impatient. “Surely we've gone through all the points in your model now?” He was thinking that if he put some pressure on now then Gus will forget the final test.
“Yes, we're finished. Have you got any questions?”
“I've got any number of questions, but I thought I'd get the answers when I use your theories and model in reality,” said Nick to appear ambitious.
“That time will come,” said Gus. “But wait a minute. Even you have to encounter the Moment of Truth after our ten days. You thought that
“Always ask. How would I react myself if I was to encounter my own advertising campaign or my own claims? Would I like the advertising or the claims? You know yourself through others. If I like what I have done myself then others are likely to as well. And the reverse is also true. If I don't like what I have done then it is likely that nobody else will either. Don't forget that. Should I give myself a tip? Should our customers give us a tip?”
Gus continued without drawing breath:
“Sorry, that was a digression, so now let's get on with the test,” he said as Nick stifled a yawn with the back of his hand.
“OK, I won't keep you under starters orders any longer. Your task is to provide a summary of everything we have discussed during this period in a way that clearly and simply explains all parts of the model so that a beginner would be able to understand the principles. But you must use your own words, not just copy your Uncle Gus word for word. I want to know that you have understood, really understood. Can you do it?” Gus laughed loudly.
“Yes! Of course I can. And I suppose you would like it to be completed yesterday?”
“You can have a couple of days. Report to me in three days. You can take today's summary with you.” He wrote solemnly and spelled it out loud and clear for the last time:
– Set targets.
– Follow-up all the targets you set.
– Measure the results of the work.
– Continuously review the model.
– Question most things.
– Make changes where and when necessary.
– Make sure to take care of the brand (this means in relation to both employees and customers/guests). It's the most important thing you have!
Nick noted down the summary for his own essay. He finished at the same time as Gus, and so he asked, “Where are we going this evening, Gus?”
“But you said…”
“Yes, I said tomorrow yesterday, but I meant in three days. I'm very sorry.”
This was a typical about turn by Gus that Nick recognized from his childhood. Gus would have other things to do this evening.
“Sorry again, but that is actually one of the factors that makes a person successful. Being able to deal with changes. View it as a lesson.”
“As I said, in three days, after you have reported what you have learned. The name of the establishment we are going to visit is the Ritz and you are going to meet some of my colleagues. A night out with lots of laughter and unresolved global problems.”
And then like a whiplash: “ALL I CAN SAY IS, GOOD LUCK!”
“You'll find out on Thursday!” Nick said goodbye and left Gus, blew Christine a kiss as he rushed past, down the stairs in leaps and bounds, towards the underground and after eating a burger on the run he hurried home to his computer and started to write.
By Nick Johnson Party Marketing in practice. A ten-day party to remember…
Really witty. If he said so himself…